You never stop learning; or at least you shouldn’t. I’ve been away for a month or so and on my rather long flight home I grew tired of the idea of watching the films on offer. Flicking through the other options I found, to my delight, I could access the much coveted ‘Country Music’ documentary series by Ken Burns. Over the course of two legs of the journey I got to episode six where it brilliantly closes with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s album, ‘Will The Circle be Unbroken.‘ Highlighting the tensions of racial hate, Nixon and Vietnam it shows how the younger generation paying respect to their elders helped ease some of the division happening in America at that time. Clearly this is a simplistic take on time where strife was never going to be resolved over an extended blue-grass jam, but nevertheless the idea of music being the balm we all need is a point worthy of some reflection.
It was good to be away from the UK when the General Election was taking place I have to admit. After five years of people falling out about almost everything it seemed to me another election was the last thing I could endure. I did tune in a bit from afar but being home for 48 hours I realise that, even as a casual bystander, it’s an emotionally exhausting process. My own therapy has always been music. It helps you celebrate and it allows you to grieve more deeply. It’s the soundtrack to falling in and falling out of love and when it’s great it can make you stop and change direction. Often it’s communal. I realised when we were out playing gigs that there must be a thousand different opinions under the roof of a venue on any given night..and yet…people find a common hope, comfort and sometimes an ecstasy in the songs we hold in common. In that sense music is a great leveller.
It’s often quite a shock to the system looking round an audience of an act you’ve chosen to watch at a bigger venue. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been surprised to find strange bedfellows paying homage to a favourite artist. Any musical combo of merit will have a cross section of the population in the audience. It’s good for us singers too as it stops us assuming everyone agrees with our opinions just because they dig the music…an easy mistake to make.
It’s taken me years and a few bad decisions to learn this, and to take me back to the start of this particular ramble, I have tried not to stop learning. I remember an excitable moment in 1991 when we played in Manchester and United had just won a trophy. My wife and a friend found a cheap replica shirt and encouraged me to don it for the encore. No injuries were sustained but should you ever try to do this make sure they buy a tin hat along with the shirt.
This week on Another Country we can allow our minds to drift away from the political expediencies for a couple of hours and reflect on what we have loved in 2019. There has been so much to celebrate in country music. We’ll bring you recordings from favourite artists like Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and The Delines as well as our new discoveries, Ferris and Sylvester, Tenile Townes and Logan Ledger. We’ll sprinkle in some Christmas offerings from Kacey Musgraves, The Stanley Brothers and JD McPherson. We’ll do all of this in two hours of radio on BBC Radio Scotland from five past nine. Join me if you can.